French 'rogue trader' Jerome Kerviel to be freed from prison after just 150 days

French rogue trader Jerome Kerviel arriving at Paris courthouse to attend his appeal hearing of a 2010 conviction for costing bank Societe Generale billions of euros on June 27, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP
French rogue trader Jerome Kerviel arriving at Paris courthouse to attend his appeal hearing of a 2010 conviction for costing bank Societe Generale billions of euros on June 27, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Jerome Kerviel, the rogue trader imprisoned after losing nearly 5 billion euros (S$8.22 billion) through risky bets at French bank Societe Generale, will be freed next week, his lawyer said Thursday.

The Paris appeals court said Kerviel, 37, can be released from Fleury Merogis prison just south of the capital and placed under supervision with an electronic bracelet.

"He will leave Fleury Merogis on Monday and he will resume a completely normal life," his lawyer David Koubbi said after the appeals court decision.

The ruling means Kerviel will have spent just under than 150 days behind bars.

The ex-trader brought Societe Generale, one of Europe's largest banks, to its knees in 2008 with enormous trades on derivatives, gambling on the direction of the market. At one point he staked 50 billion euros of the bank's money.

He was convicted in 2010 of breach of trust, forgery and entering false data in relation to the unauthorised trades, and was sentenced to three years prison and a fine of 4.9 billion euros - the same amount that he lost at the bank.

He was imprisoned in May after his conviction and sentence were upheld, although an appeals court overturned the order to pay back the bank.

Under French law, which also takes into account the period he spent in provisional custody, he has served enough time to apply for conditional release with the proviso he wears the electronic tagging bracelet at all times.

He would have to be at home between 10:00pm and 7:00am every weekday night, under the usual terms of the tagging procedure. Police receive an alarm if these terms are breached or if there is an attempt to break the bracelet.

Mr Koubbi has said before that there are around a dozen potential employers lining up to get Kerviel on their books.

Kerviel became something of a cause celebre in France, winning support from prominent left-wingers and leading figures in the Roman Catholic Church, who believe he has been unfairly scapegoated for the wider failings of the banking system.

The former trader said earlier this year he now felt "ashamed to have been part of this system." "I was a jerk at the time and I am going to spend the rest of my life testifying to that," said Kerviel.

He spent two months tramping through Tuscany on a "protest march" against "the tyranny of the markets" and even briefly met Pope Francis.

He never denied making huge gambles. "My daily existence was about making money for the bank. That was my only objective, at any price, regardless of all moral or ethical considerations," he said.

Despite dealing in such vast sums of money, he was on a relatively modest 50,000-euro basic salary when the scandal erupted in January 2008.

He lived in an unremarkable, small suburban flat and took the train to Brittany in the holidays to visit his widowed mother.

"I am an ordinary person. I'm not crazy," he said during investigations into the scandal.

"I didn't earn millions (in salary) and I didn't drive a Porsche."

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